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April 1, 2010
It seems to me that there is more than the usual quota of disturbing news in the headlines:
“Projections of deficit cut met with skepticism.”
“National sales tax seems inevitable.” (A conservative columnist’s opinion.)
“Agencies Suspect Iran Is Planning New Atomic Sites.”
“OPS pupils may learn 3 more is a crowd.”
“Omaha officials object to last-minute gun amendment.”
And then, the most disturbing—frightening may not be too strong a word—headline of all: “Growing debt could cost the U.S. its AAA rating.”
Why the scariest headline of all? Because what we are able to do as a nation, both at home and abroad, depends on fiscal stability and credibility. As The New York Times put it, a downgrading of AAA-rated U.S. Treasury bonds by investment rating services “would affect more than American pride.” The bigger risk would be to the country’s ability to keep borrowing money in extremely favorable terms and therefore to keep spending more money than it takes in from tax revenues.”
A recent World-Herald editorial quoted the headline and added this wise observation: “Yet the White House and the Congressional majority have chosen to approve a massive health care program that threatens to worsen the federal government’s fiscal condition in a severe way.
“The claims by President Barack Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders that the program will be ‘deficit neutral’ trample the notion of truth in advertising and illustrate the rampant over-promising by supporters of the legislation.”
Columnist Amity Shlaes of Bloomberg News put it this way: “Everyone knows the bill will widen deficits over time…as Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote last summer, the point of the proposal ‘was never to generate savings over the next decade.’”
Congressional Budget Office figures show that the annual deficits increased from a peak of about $400 million in George W. Bush’s last year in the office to something like $1.85 trillion in Obama’s first year in office in 2009 and are projected to total in the neighborhood of $1.2 trillion this fiscal year, Obama’s second year in office.
No wonder the headlines warn of the possible disaster of America losing its AAA credit rating and its status as the safest bond market in the world for investors to put their money into.
It is not only, of course, in the area of predictable health care deficits that America faces fiscal challenge if not a crisis. The Obama administration, unchecked by the Congress, continues to spend money we don’t have, much of it on projects of questionable merit. Recent close-to-home examples:
The Environmental Protection Agency, primarily funded by federal dollars, continues to spend a good many millions annually to replace lead-tainted yards in a growing area in the eastern part of Omaha, despite evidence that the most dangerous threat to lead poisoning in children—a threat that has been greatly exaggerated, in my opinion—is from lead-based paint in the interior of older houses.
Another close-to-home example: The Omaha Public School district is among those across the country which have been challenged to find new ways to spend money to improve education to win a “Race to the Top” effort to improve the nation’s schools according to Obama’s formula.
Omaha, we are told, lags in that race because of a lack of determination to adopt operating policies to fit Obama’s policies, which include smaller class sizes, meeting specific educational achievement goals, replacing teachers whose pupils don’t meet those goals—all this against a background of Obama’s advocacy of “intervention” ranging from replacing the school’s principal and firing half the staff to closing the school and reopening it as a “charter school.”
The incentive for what might be called “ObamaEd” is millions of dollars in four-year grants from a $4.3 billion “Race to the Top” fund—again, a promise of money which the federal government doesn’t have. And what would happen after four-years? A further funding with money that the federal government won’t have or shifting responsibility to the local school district to continue “Race to the Top” programs with local tax dollars?
Interestingly, if not ironically, at the time Nebraska was being told by the Obama administration that it doesn’t have plans to do what Obama wants done to improve educational achievement, the Nebraska Legislature was advancing a bill that would establish a special fund to help school districts create performance-based pay patterns to supplement regular teacher salaries.
LB1014 would earmark as much as $10 million a year to help school districts offer performance-based pay programs starting in 2016.
My bottom line:
This nation needs a national resolve—starting in the White House and in Congress—to take significant annual steps to reduce the deficit by living within our fiscal means and work back to a national fiscal policy of responsibility which produces not deficits but a balanced budget, as was the case as recently as 2000 and 2001.
We should be willing to restrain or reduce spending and, if necessary, increase taxes to reach that goal.
The alternative is to go, in effect, bankrupt.
* * *
Now as to those other disturbing headlines:
The news that Iran may be planning atomic sites prompts this reaction: The time is at hand when instead of talking economic sanctions and trying to negotiate with that nut cake who is Iran’s president and the ayatollahs and the professional military leadership which really runs the country, we should talk plain language that goes something like this:
“If you don’t stop developing nuclear weapon capability, subject to our verification on-site that you have stopped, we are going to take military action to see that those nuclear developing sites are neutralized, period. You simply will not be allowed to develop the capability to use nuclear weapons to intimidate and possibly attack other countries.”
As to the concern of Omaha officials about a last-minute gun amendment added to a bill in the Legislature:
The Omaha officials are absolutely justified in expressing concern. Adding the amendment on the floor of the Legislature, without a chance for committee hearing and at which Omaha officials could have expressed their views, is legislative irresponsibility at its worst.
At issue is the question of whether persons with permits to carry concealed handguns should be required to register those guns with city officials—as other handguns are required to be registered—once they have passed the criminal background check and gun proficiency requirements, and a program administered by the State Patrol, been issued a state permit to carry a concealed weapon.
A floor amendment offered by Senator Mark Christensen of Imperial followed a ruling from Attorney General John Bruning’s office that Omaha is violating a year-old law designed to free concealed-weapon permit owners from also filing for Omaha permits. The amendment, apparently, intended to put Omaha officials in their place, was adopted by a 40-2 vote.
In the name of common sense, with an epidemic of handgun shootings, woundings and killings in Omaha, why loosen requirements for local registration of all handguns, whether they are to be carried concealed or not? Can all the holders of concealed-weapon permits—an astounding 2,105 of them in Douglas County—give iron-clad assurance that their handguns will never be lost or stolen and thus become just another handgun available for adding to the handgun carnage in Omaha?
As to the judgmental headline in regard to the Omaha School District’s decision to modestly increase class sizes to make up for a loss of federal stimulus funds the next school year:
The only specific example cited in support of the “OPS pupils may learn 3 more is a crowd” headline was an expression of concern from one mother who was quoted as saying she “can’t imagine” three more children in class with her daughter.
Not all classrooms will be at a 30-pupil limit, and limits will be significantly lower in east Omaha schools where educational challenges are the greatest. OPS Superintendent John Mackiel said research shows that classes as large as 30 students in the upper elementary grades—4th, 5th and 6th—remain educationally sound, especially in schools where poverty and mobility affect few students.
* * *
Advice for a majority of Nebraska legislators: Consider again a United States Supreme Court decree known as Roe v. Wade.
Not that it will dampen your determination to show how anti-abortion you are, but you ought to be familiar with the requirements of the law you are trying to circumvent.
The Roe v. Wade decision sets limits on a state’s authority to restrict a woman’s right to have an abortion. But that hasn’t deterred anti-abortion activists and their legislative allies from seeking to find ways around the law of the land, as laid down by Roe v. Wade 37 years ago.
Now the Nebraska Legislature appears to be on the way to passing a bill proposing restrictions which one opponent described as so “extreme” that they appear to be aimed at keeping doctors from providing abortions, effectively nullifying Roe v. Wade. The bill’s introducer, Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing, said he would not object to that outcome, although he was just hoping the legislation “makes it safe for the patient.”
The bill—advanced through its first floor test by a 34-7 vote—would require assessment of a woman seeking an abortion to see whether she was feeling pressured to have an abortion. She also would have to be evaluated for any physical, psychological, emotional, demographic or situational risk factor that could cause mental or physical complications. (That’s right, “demographic” factors would have to be considered, whatever that means.)
If the abortion provider failed to fully assess and inform a woman of her risk factors, she could sue for wrongful death. (That’s death of a fetus that could not yet survive outside the womb, you understand.) The bill would provide a legal presumption that she would not have had an abortion if the doctor had followed the law.
Roe v. Wade to the contrary notwithstanding, Senator Dierk’s bill has company in the Nebraska Legislature in the category of anti-abortionists’ efforts to pass new restrictive legislation which, if it survives the almost inevitable legal challenges, would be pointed to as setting a new, restrictive national standard as an example for other states where anti-abortionists have decisive influence in the legislature.
The other bill designed to break new restrictive ground was introduced by Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood. It proposes that after a fetus reaches 20 weeks, abortions would be legal only in cases necessary to save a woman’s life or to “avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”
The bill has been given the supposedly appealing—to anti-abortionists, at least—Abortion Pain Prevention Act. Flood’s bill flies in the face of considerable expert opinion that a fetus does not begin to feel pain until viability at about 24 weeks.
In either case, litigation is assured if successful efforts are made in Nebraska to pass and try to enforce either of these new restrictive bills—litigation that could well go all the way through the federal court system.
* * *
What ever happened to motherhood? Has it been replaced by “momhood”?
I raise the question—tongue only half in cheek—because of the increasing frequency with which I encounter “mom” used as a substitute for “mother” by journalists, especially when they seem to be trying to present the woman or women in question in a sympathetic light. Some journalists do that, you know, with increasing frequency, in what are supposed to be news stories, not sympathy stories. The rule used to be to present the facts and let the reader decide for himself whether he wanted to feel sympathetic about the subject.
This subject brings to mind the time when a friend asked Marian what I had done for her for Mother’s Day. Marian replied that she hadn’t expected me to do anything (I hadn’t).
“I’m not his mother,” said Marian.
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